Financial Marketing and Cross Selling Blog
This story goes back to the mid 90’s but I will never forget it. It was a Saturday morning and I was standing in the kitchen when the phone rang. (This was before the “do not call” lists that we have today.) My young daughter answered and said, “Daddy, it’s for you.” As she handed me the phone, a pleasant sounding woman on the other end said, “Hi, I’m from MCI, and I’m calling to explain how our long distance service can save you money.” Now flash back to the time that MCI was making inroads into the long distance business that had been dominated by AT&T by offering lower long distance rates. I had always been with AT&T. In my mind, they were the standard and I was not interested in saving a few cents per minute for what I assumed was an inferior service.
Having been in sales as a cold calling stockbroker early in my career, I tried to be polite in my response, but I also wanted to be direct. I responded, “For the past two years I have seen your advertising, I have had countless direct mail pieces show up in my mailbox, and I am really not interested, but thank you for the call.” As a sales person knowing what you’re up against in cold calling, I was absolutely floored when I heard her response. She said, “You’re just the person I want to talk to?” How could I be just the person she wants to talk to when I said, “No thanks”? She continued without hesitation, “Most people don’t understand one key fact about long distance service; all carriers use the same transmission lines.” I responded immediately, “You mean to say that MCI uses the exact same lines that AT&T uses?” “Yes”, was her answer. “Then why the difference in price?”, I said. “That’s just my point”, was her reply.
Research will tell you that a bank brand attribute as a trusted institution is worth millions of dollars and the envy of so many other types of financial institutions (see recent article from The Financial Brand.)
The problem is breadth. Banks are seen too narrowly, as the place to go for deposits and loans; a place to go to transact. That’s fine if a bank is comfortable with a small share of their customer’s wallet (2 of 10) and are willing to watch other financial institutions earn more and more money by selling other products to their customers; products and services that can help people with other needs as they save for college tuition bills, save for retirement, and move into retirement and old age.
Is a bank’s brand image cast in stone? For the most part, the answer is “yes”. Think of this for a minute. You walk into your dentist’s office. This is the dentist that you have been seeing for several years. He suddenly says, “Take off your shoes and I’ll take a look at your feet, I’m also a podiatrist.” What do you think? “Oh no you’re not, you’re my dentist.” It doesn’t matter if a degree in podiatry hangs on the wall – you are in your dentist’s office and he is your dentist. An image cast in stone. If he really wanted to practice podiatry, he would be better off if you had no preconceived image of him as a dentist.
Banks are in the same trap. They want to take care of more of the needs of their customers but they are tapped by their image – a trusted place to go for deposits and loans.
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When it comes to content marketing techniques, one of the golden rules is to provide content that isn’t always tied to one of your products and services. You have to know when providing content for the pure sense of being informational to the end user is the right thing to do. For example, many banks and credit unions don’t offer health insurane but it may not be a bad idea if you dedicated some space for content related to the recent changes in health care on your website or in your next newsletter. You may not win new business directly from this approach but you will build your brand as a resource and not just a place to conduct daily banking transactions.
An example of this was well executed this past Friday when Salal Credit Union in Seattle, Washington decided to take advantage of the national Bike to Work Day to connect with the local biking community. The credit union had three what they called “commute stations” setup at various points in their community. They handed out ”refueling snacks” and drinks. The best give away were free bike lights, an important saftey item for those biking home in the dark, especially in a busy city. A tag line they used in their blog post that I thought was creative said “we care for your physical AND your fiscal saftey!”.
While the credit union is by know means selling biking services to their members, they are developing new relationships with each biker, jogger, roller blader or walker that stopped by the stations this past Friday. And knowing that it would be a busy day for such active bikers, they made the smart decision in promoting this event.
The show Lost, which had its finale last night, provides us with some important lessons to be learned. Some scientific, some religious but for the purposes of this post, the lessons are about what NOT to do when approaching customer service at your bank or credit union.
There’s no denying that Lost was a successful show. With the first three seasons reaching an average of 15 million viewers per episode, countless number of fan base websites, forums and meet up groups, this show was a monster when it came to creating loyalty. But looking closer, you’ll realize how the producers went about creating this strong loyal following. In comparison between the producers strategy and the strategy of some of today’s banks, you can see some similarities. For example, they kept coming out with shiny new plot lines (products) for their loyal viewers (customers) to talk about, and just when a new plot line was getting old and losing its muster, the writers (product developers) would think of a new story to tell.
The problem with this model is that when the loyal customers come to you looking for solutions to issues they may have with past products or services the powers that be don’t even know the answer. They’re too busy working on the next new product instead of focusing on making changes to existing ones based on customer feedback.